At a preliminary hearing, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Terri Mockler ordered Dep. Andrew Hall to stand trial on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the November 2018 killing of 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda, whom Hall shot during a slow-speed pursuit through the streets of Danville.
Video of the killing shows Hall running around his own patrol car to face Arboleda’s silver Honda, then firing nine times into the windshield and passenger window while backpedalling, as the car drives past. Mockler, a former public defender, acknowledged “there is an argument to be made that this was self-defense,” but still blamed Hall for the shooting. She said that at the “critical moment,” Hall was not at risk of serious injury or death.
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Her assessment directly contradicts prior public statements by Sheriff David Livingston, who said Hall lawfully defended himself from someone who attempted to murder him. “I did not see an attempt to directly hit Deputy Hall,” said Mockler at Hall’s Tuesday preliminary hearing. “Deputy Hall, by his own actions, put himself in harm’s way.”
Mockler dismissed a second charge against Hall — assault with a semiautomatic firearm — but that was more due to an unforced prosecutorial error than an evidentiary issue; assistant district attorney Chris Walpole failed to ask any witness if Hall’s duty pistol was, in fact, a semiautomatic firearm. Mockler indicated she would have upheld a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge based on the evidence she saw Tuesday.
The defense, led by attorney Harry Stern, did not call any witnesses nor cross-examine the main prosecution witness: a District Attorney’s inspector who confirmed basic facts about the case, but also suggested that Hall could have shot his own colleague, Sgt. Chris Martin, who had positioned his car parallel to Hall’s when Hall began shooting. At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, though, Stern called Hall’s actions “abundantly clear” self-defense and asked Mockler to throw out both counts [Mercury News].
“It was (Arboleda’s) decision every step of the way, not to comply,” Stern said. He later added, “On the video, it looks as if (Arboleda) might have run over Deputy Hall’s foot … at that point (Hall) used the tool he had to defend himself.” Walpole said Hall’s colleagues were on the verge of calling off the slow-speed pursuit, which started after Arboleda failed to pull over following a report that he’d been “suspiciously” ringing doorbells at an apartment complex. About two minutes before Hall entered, other deputies attempted to stop Arboleda at gunpoint. While pointing his pistol at Hall, the deputy can be heard saying, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot.” Hall, Walpole said, “had other ideas.”